Technology has been at the centre of the vision of the “mobile first” and “cloud first” world. These were great rallying cries, and while we’ve now achieved something close, most enterprise business applications and platforms follow the form as product-centric and “feature-rich.” Meaning we’re still primarily a technology-centric world. People are conflicted about whether technology is conflicted about them. It seems so at times, doesn’t it? But that’s starting to change, and here’s why it’s a good thing that it is.
New advances, including continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) DevSecOps and design thinking, are moving us toward a human-centric approach to technology within the enterprise. Consumer technology is mostly user-friendly, and software giants are working hard to make even massive enterprise apps user-friendly as well. But even better would be to have human-friendly apps, so that the human being is seen as more than just a mere user of the technology.
A good approach to development
DevSecOps leans this way by starting with the needs of the community for which the actual software is being developed. No hyperdetailed functional specification or process description is written — simply a loose outline of features and functions. Starting with this, the developers code a viable first effort. Operators then deploy and implement that code and immediately gather feedback—from humans. (3D modeling is enabling a similar approach in physical product design.)
Developers modify the code based on this feedback and release a new version that the operators deploy for more feedback in what we call continuous integration/continuous delivery. (Some people say the “D” in CI/CD stands for deployment, but that sounds so technology-centric, doesn’t it?)
The loop repeats and repeats, with the software getting better, as defined by human feedback. Good stuff.
When design and development are about people
Certainly, we’re continually amazed at what technology can do for good — make us safer, healthier, closer — and how it creates innovations and efficiencies in virtually every field and industry. But when we look at the rate of technology advancement, we start to reach limits relative to what people actually want or need, and what they can actually consume. This is the world in which my Human First Tech Initiative/revolution is born. #HumanFirst!
We can do so much better. Brand consultants at Lippincott describe the concept of “sensitive technology,” explaining that technology should do five things: welcome us, reassure us, protect us, connect with us and be good to us. Wow, count me in, friends.
The good news is that the approach of “design thinking” that we borrowed from academia is gaining popularity in the tech industry, with the goal that for various kinds of software and systems development, we create products that actually put people first.
I like the definition of this product development approach articulated by design and consulting firm IDEO, which talks about design thinking as having a “human-centred core.” Nice. The firm continues: “When you sit down to create a solution for a business need, the first question should always be what’s the human need behind it? In employing design thinking, you’re pulling together what’s desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.”
I get it. It’s not just about the human; it’s about feasibility and viability. That’s fair.
The critical point is that we in the tech industry need to empathise with the plight of human beings just trying to do their jobs and we should always be thinking creatively about how best to help them (versus, you know, adding cool stuff). Prototypes should be proudly tested on humans! For the enterprise, technology that enables me to create value (my shorthand definition of work) in a way that’s welcoming, reassuring and good to me.
Enterprise technology still needs to do one thing much better: It needs to reorganise itself around how I want to work.
We’ve seen enterprise platforms that enable people to access their corporate apps, desktops and data easily from anywhere. More importantly, emerging platforms serve up bite-sized workflows that suit a particular person’s method and cadence of working, and his or her daily schedule. They expedite getting tasks done without the hassle of navigating massive enterprise apps, with their complex hierarchies and unique user interfaces, while maintaining audibility within the systems of records that companies and governments rely on. I’m a fan.
I know it’s not just about delivering a great employee experience — enterprises need to stay in control and efficiently manage resources. The kinds of technology that should merit our affection provide the scale, support and security that organisations need, balanced with a human-first kind of design and experience.
That makes technology good to me.